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#OccupyLuthuliHouse: The day the police had to separate the ANC from itself

There is very little left of the glorious liberation movement that fills the history books of South African children. Whatever is left of the ANC is fighting each other on the streets of Johannesburg.

An attempt by supporters of Africa’s oldest liberation movement, to deliver a memorandum to the Secretary General, was repelled by another faction of the party, who seek to protect the sanctity of the party, from what they say, are attempts to influence the party from outside.

The #OccupyLuthuliHouse protesters‚ who have described themselves as “children of the ANC”‚ have demanded that Zuma must step down as president of the ANC and the country‚ and the resignation of the current top six National Executive Committee members of the party.

“We are here to liberate our party and restore the dignity of our country. We will not let that man [President Zuma] ruin the reputation of our country. We are here to represent the real ANC. We are here to remember the likes of Chief Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo,” one protester said.

There certainly appeared little to unite the sea of yellow outside Luthuli House.

In the midst of a sea of yellow, on one side, #OccupyLuthuliHouse chanted for Zuma to be recalled. On the other side, the Defend Luthuli House, made up of ANC supporters, from the realms of the Umkhonto WeSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) , ANC Youth League and Women’s League, held aloft posters that read “Hands off President Zuma.”

Both sides claim to be defending the honour of the ANC.

One side believes Zuma is disrespecting the ANC’s honour while the other side believes that protesting against the ANC is disrespect for the party itself.

Zamokuhle Mabena, 20, a student, from Ekurhuleni, said that those uniting under the banner of #OccupyLuthuliHouse should wait until the next national conference to air their grievances.

“What brings me here today is to basically defend Luthuli house, but not just defend Luthuli house, but to defend the constitution of the ANC.

“It never happens that the NEC must resign. If the NEC must resign, it means we must go to a national conference. That’s what the ANCYL are saying, we must go to a national conference as soon as possible so people should not come with memorandums, but in fact should support that ANC Youth League that we should got to an early conference.

“So it’s not a matter of saying, you are attacking Luthuli house. Luthuli house has nothing to do with it. If people want to convince people they must go through a book called, through the eye of a needle. Learn how to influence people. Then when they influence people, it’s then they will call for a national conference, that’s what is important.”

On other side however, the demand for change within the ANC was resolute.

George Kieblor said he would not vote for any party except the ANC.

“We believe in the heart of the organisation and not the individuals that are corrupting the organisation. If a leg has gangrene, you only want to amputate the part of it that has gangrene. The rest of the leg is still good,” he said.

And for those marching to Luthuli House to deliver a memorandum to Gwede Mantashe, the sight of MK veterans in camouflage, barricading Luthuli House, was a message in itself.

“There is a connotation of threat with the all these guards. What are all these guards doing here? The guards should protect the state and not the individuals. [The problem] with the ANC, is that it all boils down to squabbles. Its that ‘If I go down, I’m taking you down with me’ mentality,” Kieblor said.

What is clear for ANC supporters like Kieblor is that the formal processses of the ANC do not work – their voices are not being heard.

But for, Mhlengi Mabuya, 21, a COSAS member, from KwaZulu-Natal, insisted that the occupy movement should go through the proper channels and not just hand in a memorandum.

“What we are calling them, those occupiers, they must come back to the ANC, they must use the procedure of the ANC, because you cannot jump the branch level, the regional level. All the levels of the structures of the ANC to come to march to Luthuli House. In the ANC there is procedure. The ANC have procedures, they must follow the procedures, that’s all. That’s what we are saying. What we are saying to them, there I saw them, they are still young, we need them in the ANC,” he said.

The Defend Luthuli House protesters severely outnumbered the #OccupyLuthuliHouse protesters.

“Don’t give hooligans free airtime‚” Gwede Mantashe is reported to have told a crowd around him.

Who would have thought that the day would come when a boundary of police officers would separate the ANC from itself?

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